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Jesuit Brand Continued
Scene 11.5 of The Acts of Awes West
© 2022 James LaFond
For days and weeks he supposed, he was made to sip tea, smoked like jerky, massaged and worried, walked limping around the inside of the tower with that Indian holding him up. Eventually he was given a pot for his waste and left be, finally well enough to make scat.
In and out of delirium he had laxly studied the three figures:
The Christian Indian was short and slight and tireless. This man brought in the wood and minded the hearth, nursed him and cooked.
The heathen French voyager was tall, lean, burly in full beard and brusk, never speaking to him, but about him to the Jesuit. This one spent most of his time on the roof and outside on skies or snow shoes, a hunter of no mean ability, having slain a buffalo cow, and bringing back the organs, fat and four hunches over the course of a day. The meat smoked in strips as the bones boiled in the kettle, from where he took his nourishment by the Injun hand.
The Jesuit was too big and hard by half to be a priest of the ordinary or learned sorts. He was handsome and kind-eyed and read versus from his black Bible as Ole Geaze faded in and out of consciousness.
One day he ate fat.
The next day he chewed a little piece of meat.
The second day after eating fat, he listened intently to the Lord’s Prayer and when the Jesuit closed the Good Book he spoke like the risen dead, “Thank ye, Padre.”
The Jesuit soothed, “Call me Brand, Father—the Sorcerer of Awes West should waste no breath honoring our petty hierarchies.”
He croaked, “I ain’ no father—not ta no livin’ soul. My Father, Medicine Wheel Man, I cairned up by The Wheel when we fell sick.”
The man smiled softly, “We have ascertained these things, have prayed at Medicine Wheel Cairn, have lodged here in Medicine Wheel Tower, have cooked from the very kettle that the Angel of Whitefish Nunnery brought here with a rough boy’s help some sixty years ago. She sends her regards—your time trace is known, the man once called Sergeant Noose Gun.”
“You be the sorcerer then—ta know all such old afrays.”
The priest smiled softly again, “The tale of Medicine Wheel Man’s disciple, gifted by the Comanche in return for a prophecy, has long been known. We have book-traced this place, your Father—once an ordained member of my order—and have curated the reports of Jesuits who have traveled here before. The Knights Trace keep winter truce every fourth year so that we may ski here. Never-the-less, you are Our Father, the eldest of us here, the keeper of Medicine Wheel Man’s bones and lore. You are now the Sorcerer.”
The voice creaking from his mouth sounded ancient, “Cain’t read ner write nor recite—jus’ a saddle broke war fool.”
The priest smiled softly and put aside his Bible, made praying hands, opened them in the asking way, and soothed, “We hoped to find Your Father alive, to ask of the Winter, perhaps you recall something he said on the matter of shortening summers, lengthening winters?”
Clearing his throat and hawking a lung butter into the fire he leaned forward and mused aloud, “Father said the worl’ were bein’ tilted crooked wise a ‘way from the sun by God. Said he, ‘A year on the God Count might be an age to men.’”
“Thank you, Father.”
He shook his head, pained at being addressed so, the only persons that had called him father before being pony boys got macheted by the voodooists.
“Forgive us—but were you not something of a sorcerer of war? We also hoped. Roy, my voyager [1] keeping watch above, knows of your exploits through Indian lore, deserter stories and, I took the liberty of translating your fever dreams for his opinion, he being akin to what you once were, before Medicine Wheel Man took you as a disciple.”
He shrugged and coughed emptily, “Ease droppin’ on me nightmares?”
The priest bowed slightly, “I am guilty of burglarizing your tormented utterances. In my defense, recognizing that the Holy Spirit and The Devil were battling for your soul, I did read the Bible over you in less afflicted hours and recited the Exorcist Creed when The Devil came on. As such, Talks by Night and I were privy to the spoken portions of your dreams. Roy, a great admirer of your past life, not speaking English, asked after your torments. We apologize, Father.”
He nodded reluctantly and felt abashed over strangers knowing so much about him, after 20 years of single-minded service to Father in hopes of erasing any connection to his past.
Vexed he: ‘Damned babbling Comanches!’
He found rough voice, “Please, tell da Angel Nun what were once da Lady o’ Roses dat she were like ta my own Mamma en dat I avenged ‘er man on dat Grizz Knight.”
Jesuit Brand seemed to already know these things based on his look to the Injun, but politely smiled, “Assuredly we shall as we return through Whitefish. We travel with this pass bestowed upon us by the Master of The Knights Trace at Whitefish.”
Saying this he displayed a badge by pulling the cord that held it around his neck under the rosary beads out from under his black vestment. The reading he could not make out with his sore eyes from this distance and could not fathom the letters at any rate. However, the Gauntleted fist Holding up a Saddle Gun, spoke to him of that storied order who held Awes West against these cross-ways Canadian Christians, the Czarists and Injuns of various wicked sorts such as Blackfeet, Comanche and Ree.
Admitted he: ‘Always admired Knights Trace—s’pose I comported combat more in dey way den accordin’ ta Saint George.’
“Father,” asked the priest, “we were—having ascertained the nature of Medicine Wheel Man’s disciple—chiefly interested in begging his indulgence to permit questions of you. You might note that I do not have the Bible memorized—that I must read passages—and that I am of a more physical type than usual. I have been tasked by Pope Ignatius the Ninth, with securing the Northwest against the Czarists and...others, in hopeful alliance or perhaps only the sufferance of Awes West and The Knights Trace. We seek martial council.”
His voice sounded sure and clear, as if he had become of a sudden less done, “Had hoped ta leave dat kine o’ thinkin’ all behine…”
“Understood, Father. We need trouble you know more. Your larder will be increased and a healer of another kind will be sent. Talks-by-Night says there is a problem he cannot mend. Your wisdom is needed.”
The man began to rise with his book, turning like he would be retiring upstairs to Father’s table where he no doubt read.
His voice seemed nearly strong, “I owes ya me life—what’s lef’ anyhow. Aks away, Padre.”
The priest regarded him keenly, nodded and spoke softly, with care, “Blackfeet and Ree are scouting for Czarist slavers.”
“Yer Christian Injuns ‘ad da worse part o’ da Injun Jesused out a dem. Ye needs Crow, Shoshone, Delaware, good hired. The Shawnee might ‘ave some loose knives, but dey suck up ta Sepulcher mighty tight.”
The man produced a pencil and began writing in the back pages of his Bible, writing with an obsession that he had mostly seen on miners panning for gold.
“Oh, yeah, saddle guns, two to a man if ye got da iron. Swivel guns slung on a pack ‘orse for wreckin’ dey block houses—dem Czarists love dey lille block houses what put dem ta bossin’ dem fish-eaters.”
The man smiled and a French voice carried down the ladder, the hard, bearded face and wolfish eyes of the owner beaming with questions on fighting Injuns. It turned out that between the French making so many Indian friends and their Indians becoming Christian that this Czarist trick of using wild Injuns against the French had their Jesuit drawers in a knot or two.
The questions came and went, in varying detail, with requests for amplification and time eased over for digression into accounts of this raid, that burned fort and so on, that he had half forgotten he was old and unwell as his voice carried like a resonant echo down life’s mournful well.
Finally, well into the night, eating meat, the four men sitting around the hearth, the voyager spoke in French to the Jesuit who asked, haltingly, “Winter drives deeper. There is some famine. We wonder, have the Wendigo come this far south?”
His mouth went lax and he swallowed the currently worried chunk of bison absently, “They come in bad times, Father said—neva seen one myself. Old Medicine Crow what attended ‘ere ‘fore me knew all ‘bout dem skulkers.”
The three men looked at him and each other with some fear and Jesuit Brand said, “They are not alone in our home. The Sasquatch have returned as Stonish Giants.”
He looked at the voyager and said, “This ole geaze is durn pleased to be off da trace. I don’ envy yer lot, son—shuck dem swords if ya still use ‘em and pack more firin’ irons, ‘eaviest bore, three pistols en two saddle guns to a man. Iron’s what made ma rank, en wet powder is what lost my sand unda Massacre Tree. Keep spare powder horns slung under a poncho ova yer coat.”
They smiled, grim and narrow, knowing that on earth other-worldly things were thirsting for the morrow.
1. Voyagers were Canadian scouts and guides expert in Indian languages, boating, snow-showing, skying and dog-sledding. They were the rangers of the french-speaking north.
Jesuit Brand
Dog Foot Woman

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